Are you planning a trip to Salzburg and wonder what the must-see sights in Salzburg are? Don’t worry. We got you covered. No matter if you join the Free Walking Tour or not, Salzburg is the perfect destination for independent sightseeing.
The old town of Salzburg is walkable, and it’s easy to find the must-see sights on your own. Things to do and see in Salzburg are plenty, even if the city is small. In this article, we will cover 15 must-see sights and some of our favorite things to do.
How many days should I spend in Salzburg?
One day in Salzburg is enough to cover the most important places. If you have more time, however, you won’t get bored either. In two or three days you could cover the old town in more detail and include some off the beaten path places.
And then. If you are lucky to have even more time, you should plan day trips to the most popular places in the surroundings of Salzburg. Even if a day or a few hours is fine to explore the old town, and cover the must-see places in this article, consider staying longer in case you have more time!
What are the top tourist attractions in Salzburg?
This list contains the same sights as the printed Free Walking Tour city map of Salzburg. The list of sights in Salzburg is inexhaustible. This list contains some of the most popular things to see as well as some of our favorite places. Some of them are less known but none of them is really off the beaten path. They are must-visit tourist attractions.
The order in which we present these sights to you doesn’t reflect importance. It’s the same order as on our printed City Maps, the order in which we visit the sights on our walking tours and it’s an order in which you can visit the must see sights during your exploration of Salzburg.
1. Mozart Residence
The left side of the Salzach River is where most of the important sights are in Salzburg. Mozart too was born in Getreidegasse, on the left side of the river but he and his family moved to the other side when he was 17 years old. When Mozart was 25, ten years before his death, he moved to Vienna. Salzburg was too small for an ambitious artist. His father, however, lived in the house on Makartplatz, that known as Mozart residence today, until he died.
Even if the Mozart Residence looks like from the times of Mozart, it harbors a secret. During world war II, half of the building was destroyed by bombs. They then replaced it by an office building which was only taken down at the end of the 20th century. If you inspect the building, you will see a white line between the Austrian flag and the “Mozart Wohnhaus” sign. That’s where the old building ends and the recent building, reconstructed according to old plans, starts. The right side of the building is new, while the left side of the Mozart Residence is original.
Both the museum inside the residence and museum inside Mozart’s birthplace, I would recommend if you are a genuine fan of Mozart or if you are in possession of a Salzburg card. For everyone else, it’s enough to pass by and notice the historic sight.
Mozart’s Residence and Mirabell Gardens are the only famous sights on the left side of the river. The train station is on the left side of the river. Therefore you can cover both Mirabell and the Mozart Residence, while you walk from the train station and before crossing the river.
2. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Palace was built as a countryside residence for one of the most important archbishops from history, Wolf Dietrich, for his mistress and for their 15 children. I know, I know. Archbishop, mistress, children. A countryside residence because when he built Mirabell, at the end of the 16th century, it was still outside of the city walls.
Mirabell Castle as you see it today was rebuilt after a fire and also the garden was added much later. Historians are unsure how the castle looked like when it was initially built.
Inside the castle, the marble hall is the only place you can visit. It’s famous for weddings. If there is no wedding happening while you are visiting Mirabell, the Marble Hall is open and free to have a look at. Enter the castle and take the stairs up to the first floor. The rest of the castle is the city government.
Therefore Mirabell is more about the gardens, but the gardens are a special place of interest in Salzburg. Not only were they one of the primary filming locations of the Sound of Music, but there are lots of minor details worth noticing. The dwarf garden, the palm house, and the hedge theater, just to mention a few.
Mirabell Gardens is only 10 minutes walking from the train station. When you arrive in Salzburg you either arrive at the train station or at Mirabell square by bus from the airport. Therefore Mirabell could be the beginning of your sightseeing in Salzburg.
3. Mozart’s Birthplace
Mozart’s birthplace might be the most famous place in Salzburg besides the Hohensalzburg fortress. Everybody knows that Mozart was born in Salzburg, and Mozart was famous long before the Sound of Music. The birthplace of Mozart is in the most busy shopping street of Salzburg, Getreidegasse, which is a must see on its own.
Getreidegasse is the most popular place in Salzburg. It’s a shopping street famous for the old signs in front of the shops. Even if most of the shops are homes to international brands nowadays, these signs are not to be replaced. All the old town on the left side of the river is part of the UNESCO world heritage nowadays. Strict rules preserve the appearance of the buildings.
The birthplace itself is a house like all the other houses in Getreidegasse. There is a small square in front of Mozart’s birthplace. During the tourist season, Hagenauerplatz is constantly filled with a crowd photographing the yellow building which houses a supermarket on the ground floor.
The museum on the upper floors is one of the most visited museums in the world. On the first floor, the museum replicates the living conditions at the time of Mozart, the second floor is dedicated to his music, and on the third floor, where the family lived for 26 years, you will find instruments, documents, family letters, and portraits.
As mentioned with the Mozart Residence, I recommend a visit if you are a genuine fan of Mozart or if you are the owner of a Salzburg card. Otherwise, it’s enough to snap a picture and move on.
4. University Church
The University Church, also known as Collegiate Church, was built as a part of the University around 1700. You might have heard that Salzburg is famous for its baroque architecture. The university church is one of those baroque building. The most significant one after the cathedral.
While Italians built the cathedral of Salzburg, an Austrian architect built the University church. Fischer von Erlach was the same architect as Schönbrunn castle. Schönbrunn is a palace in Vienna and the most visited sight in Austria.
Fischer von Erlach built four churches in Salzburg, of which the university church was the last one. Because Salzburg is surrounded by mountains and space was limited, the University church was in fact the last historic building erected in the old town.
It’s not a popular sight, but stunning. The University church might be the most unique church you ever visited, especially with baroque churches. There are no paintings on the walls and no church benches. The plain white walls make it seem even more marvelous.
I recommend laying down on one of the diagonal benches in the crossing to adore the magnificent. I generally recommend visiting churches in Salzburg, no matter if you are religious. All of them are free (at least at the time of writing) and most showcase more art than any museum.
In front of the church, there is a daily market. Grünmarkt (green market) is the daily market in Salzburg. It happens daily except for Sundays. For an authentic farmers market, however, you would have to be lucky enough to visit Salzburg on a Thursday and head to Mirabell square.
5. Concert Hall
Behind the University church, you find the cultural epicenter of Salzburg. The Salzburg festival emerged during a time of crisis. In the middle of the 19th century, they rediscovered Mozart, but the first festival only happened after the first world war in 1920 about 100 years ago.
Today the Salzburg festival is the biggest classical music festival in the world. With 250.000 tickets sold during the six weeks in July and August, the Salzburg Festival is a force to reckon with. If you visit Salzburg during the festival, it will be a lot busier and more expensive.
We even call the area where the concert hall is the festival district. But don’t think of the Salzburg festival like you would of other festivals. Tickets are expensive, and the popular operas sell out at the beginning of the year. Most of the year there are no concerts and even if there are concert they happen behind closed doors.
You could see people in fancy dresses, before or after the shows, on the square in front of the concert hall, but free concerts to attend are the recordings on the screen at Kapitelplatz. You won’t notice the festival and the festival district is not the crowded area of the city unless people are gathering before or after a show.
The festival hall itself contains of three-part. Two of which are from the 20th century, while another part is from the horse riding school the concert hall originally was. That oldest part of the concert hall was in the Sound of music. Remember the concert at the end? The Edelweiss song? Not only was the concert hall a filming location. The Trapp family actually performed for the festival before escaping from the Nazis.
If you would like to see the inside of the concert hall, the only way is a guided tour. I would, however, recommend that guided tour. It would be included in the Salzburg card and in case you are not getting a Salzburg card, it only costs a few euros.
6. Saint Peter’s Monastery
Saint Peter’s Monastery is the founding place of Salzburg. Salzburg was founded in 696 by a Bavarian bishop. Saint Rupert founded Salzburg as a monastery, and that monastery has existed ever since. Saint Peter’s Monastery, therefore, is the oldest active monastery in the German-speaking region.
You can’t visit the inside rooms of the monastery. Only the two yards between the festival hall and the church of Saint Peters. But you can and must see the church and the cemetery.
If you followed my previous recommendation and visited the University church, you are about to find out why I called the University church unique. Saint Peters is the opposite. Dimly lit and covered in gold and paintings, it’s the jewel of Salzburgs churches.
Saint Peter’s church combines centuries of art history.
In the corner next to the entrance of the church you find two more entrances. Above the one entrance, you will notice a number. 803. That’s the entrance to the restaurant of Saint Peter’s which claims to be the oldest restaurant in Europe.
The entrance to the left is the entrance to the cemetery of Saint Peter’s which actually is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe. They already used the grounds as a cemetery in 696 after the Christians first settled.
The cemetery may also be familiar to you from the film the sound of music. Saint Peter’s cemetery is supposed to be the place where the family hides after the concert. However, the producers of the film could not film at the cemetery and therefore rebuilt Saint Peters in Hollywood.
The caves on the side of the mountain are catacombs, but not catacombs as you know them from other cities. Historians believe the early Christians used these catacombs as prayer caves. I only recommend entering the catacombs with a Salzburg card because. With a Salzburg card, the entrance is free. But go to the entrance either way, because you will find the grave of Mozart’s sister!
When you walk through the cemetery starting at Sankt Peters church, you can either keep right or left. If you keep to the right, you will come to the funicular to the fortress while you will find the oldest bakery in Salzburg, if you leave the cemetery on the left.
7. Franciscan Church
Not only Benedictine monks live in the monastery of St. Peter but also Franciscans. These Franciscans have had their own church since they came to Salzburg around 1600.
The Franciscan Church, however, was built long before. It is believed the Franciscan Church dates back to the 8th century and that they built the church even before the consecration of the cathedral in 774.
That is why the Franciscan Church, like the Church of St. Peter, unites centuries of art history. The Franciscan Church is part of my four favorite churches in Salzburg and one of the must-see sights in Salzburg.
You will find the entrance on the western side of the building. The side entrance when you come from Saint Peter is often closed.
Just like the Benedictine monastery, the inside rooms of the Franciscan monastery cannot be visited. Sometimes, however, the Franciscan monks open their gardens to the public. The entrance is next to the cross when you leave the church on the left. In summer dozens of different plants are growing there.
8. Salzburg Cathedral
Catholic church ruled Salzburg. More precisely, Archbishops ruled Salzburg, and a cathedral is the archbishop’s church. That is why the Salzburg Cathedral is the most important church in a city full of churches.
Let alone the imposing baroque architecture, they Baptised Mozart in the cathedral and he performed there. The cathedral houses 5 organs which sometimes can be heard in paid or free concerts. Furthermore, the archbishops were buried in the basement where also one of the works of art of the Salzburg foundation is exhibited.
If you only visit one church while in Salzburg, make it the Salzburg Cathedral! As of now, in 2020, the entrance is still free. At the entrance, there is a counter, but donations are voluntary.
As the symbol of Salzburg, the fortress, at least in my opinion, is the most important sight. The fortress dominates not only the appearance of the city but also offers the best views over the city and over the surroundings. From the old town the view to the alps is blocked by Mönchsberg, one of two city mountains. From the fortress, however, you can also see the surrounding area and the higher mountains.
If there is only one sight, you pay an entrance fee for, let it be the fortress! Walking up is cheaper, but the funicular is more comfortable. Whether you save money or take the funicular is personal preference but the funicular is fun. And again. The Salzburg card is worth considering if you want to visit the fortress and one or two more sights.
Inside the fortress Hohensalzburg are museums, viewpoints, a restaurant, a church and more. Visit all three of the main viewpoints! Each of them offers a different angle.
In case you are on a budget and don’t want to spend any money, go to the fortress right after closing time! The museums close at closing time, but the building remains open for another hour and a small door that you can only open from the inside allows you to stay as long as you want. This works best in summer because the fortress closes long before sunset.
10. Nonnberg Abbey
You guessed it. Nonnberg Abbey is the Abbey from the Sound of Music. But there is more to Nonnberg Abbey than that. In fact, founded at the beginning of the 8th century by Saint Rupert, the founder of the city of Salzburg, Nonnberg is the oldest active nunnery in the world.
Nonnberg is the monastery at the beginning of the film when the nuns sing. In actual life, Maria and the captain got married at the Nonnberg church, but in the film, the wedding took place in Mondsee, in the lake district and not at the abbey.
The abbey is closed for visitors, but you can visit the church. If you are an early riser, I would recommend the nuns’ prayer at 6.45am. Most of the nuns live in a retreat and never leave the monastery. Therefore, you cannot see them during the prayer and the singing, but only hear them.
I don’t consider Nonnberg an absolute must, but it’s a special place. Few tourists find their way up. To get to the abbey you either climb stairs called the “Nonnbergstiege” or you start on the way to the fortress and instead of turning right after about 100 meters you continue straight.
11. New Residence
Wolf Dietrich built the new residence as part of the redesign of the city. Wolf Dietrich was the archbishop who built Mirabell Palace. Remember? The one with the 15 children.
Only 100 years later, around the year 1700, they added the bell tower to the new residence. The carillon plays three times a day at 7 am, 11 am and 6 pm. If you head to residence square to hear the bells, don’t panic! They are always five minutes late.
If you would like to know more about the carillon, I have written an article about the carillon and the possibilities of a tour to the carillon. That’s not a must, but I am a fan of the tower.
Opposite the new residence is the old residence, which was the archbishop’s’ residence from the 12th century. hence the square between the two buildings is called residence square.
Every event in Salzburg takes place here and/or in front of the cathedral. the traditional festival, the Christmas market or the opening of the festival.
In the middle of the Residenzplatz is the largest Baroque fountain north of the alps. Maybe this sounds familiar from the sound of music.
The residence building itself is only interesting if you like museums or have a Salzburg card. The new residence houses the Salzburg museum, the oldest history museum in the city. I am a big fan of the Salzburg Museum and recommend the museum to anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the city. Furthermore, it’s a must if you get a Salzburg card. Same as all the other museums the Salzburg museum is included. Walk through even if you don’t care about museums!
12. Old Residence
Same as the new residence, the old residence is interesting as a museum and for its historical context.
However, this building is much larger. The old residence dates back to the 12th century. Back then it already served as the archbishop’s residence. They expanded and rebuilt it several times. If you visited the Franciscan Church you were next to the new residence. Inside the Franciscan church are windows from which the archbishop could attend mass without leaving his residence.
The museum in the old residence opened in 2014 and not like the Salzburg museum over 150 years ago. The “Domquartier” museum includes the residence gallery and the state rooms and allows you to enter areas of the cathedral and Saint Peters Monastery that you otherwise could not enter.
The exclusive areas of the cathedral and the arches connecting the buildings on residence square are especially worth visiting.
However, if you are not interested in museums at all or do not want to spend money, it’s enough to notice the building, to know what it was and why we call our main square the residence square.
13. Mozart Square and the Mozart Statue
Mozartplatz is where you want to click that selfie. A selfie together with Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus, even if we don’t think Mozart actually looked like that.
Long before the Sound of Music was filmed, Salzburg was already famous for Mozart. The Mozart myth in Salzburg began 50 years after his death in the middle of the 18th century.
50 years after Mozart’s death, Salzburg decided to erect a monument for him. Mozart square had been called Saint Michaels square at the time and there was a fountain for Saint Michael. For most people, the saint was more important than Mozart. Most people were against replacing Saint Michael with Mozart.
The statue was built nevertheless but only finished for the 51st anniversary of Mozart’s death because a Roman mosaic was found during the construction. You can find a replica of the Roman mosaic on the ground on the right side when you are facing the statue.
The statue was inaugurated in the presence of Mozart’s two sons. a three-day festival took place. That’s when not only classical music was rediscovered and the initial idea of a music festival was born, but clever businessmen also realized there was money to make from Mozart.
That’s why he’s everywhere nowadays.
Sidenote: A place that should also be mentioned as a must-see is the old market. That’s where Salzburgs oldest coffee shop, Tomaselli and the Fürst Konditorei, where the original Mozart chocolate was invented, are. You will pass by the old market, “alter market”, at some point anyway. It connects all of the main squares with the famous shopping street and University square.
14. Mozartsteg Bridge
There are many more sights on the left side of the river Salzach, in the actual old town, but we have visited the most important ones. Now it’s time to cross the river again and explore an area less popular than Mirabell and Mozart’s residence, but no less significant.
Mozartsteg is a pedestrian bridge and connects the two sides of the river at Mozartplatz.
Why I like this bridge and why I count Mozartsteg to the must-see sights? in the case of Mozartsteg, it is a personal preference. it is one of the favorite sights of a local in a city for tourists.
They built Mozartsteg in the second half of the 19th century. Have you seen the Eiffel tower before in person or in picture? Of course, you have. The Mozart footbridge is the same era and the same style. The style of art nouveau. Now that you know that, I bet the similarities become obvious.
Do you know who paid for the construction of the Mozartsteg? a cafe owner on the other side. the other side’s population was poorer than that of the archbishop’s side. the cafe owner wanted to attract more visitors with money.
However, the construction of the bridge also costs a lot of money. his glorious idea was therefore to charge a toll. The tiny house on the left side of the river that now houses the cafe “We love coffee” was the toll station. Their coffee is excellent if you need a caffeine boost.
And last but not least, I don’t want to withhold from you that the Mozartsteg also occurred in the Sound of Music.
In case you crossed Mozartsteg from Mozartplatz, find your way into Steingasse! Steingasse can be reached by crossing the street a few meters to the left and then immediately turning right again to get to the foot of the mountain. Steingasse means stone alley and is the best example of a simpler life on the right side of the river.
15. Saint Sebastian’s Cemetery
Saint Sebastian’s differs from all the other places on this list. Of all the sites listed here, it might be my favorite.
Not that I like cemeteries, but I like Saint Sebastian. It’s a peaceful place. Steeped in history. Architecturally and artistically significant, but unknown among the majority of tourists.
Or unpopular. You would find out if you read enough about Salzburg. After all, Mozart’s father and Mozart’s widow, as well as Wolf Dietrich, the archbishop with the 15 children, were buried there.
The mausoleum in the middle of the cemetery is the grave of Wolf Dietrich.
I recommend taking the whole round in the arcades to rest and enjoy the silence. Mozart’s family grave can be found between the entrance and the mausoleum.
And watch out. Sometimes the main entrance is closed. Especially in winter. If the main entrance is closed, go around the building and find the entrance in the Bruderhof next to the Institute Saint Sebastian! Ask someone if you are unsure!
This list of must-see sights in Salzburg is a carefully crafted selection, but far from complete. It covers the most touristy sights, as well as some favorites of a local tour guide and a few lesser-known attractions. We visit many of these places on our Free Walking Tour of Salzburg, but you should revisit all of them to have a closer look.
You can visit these must-see places in the order I presented them to you but you can also use this list to tick off places as you wander. Distances in Salzburg are short, and I would prefer getting lost instead of worrying too much about sights. The vibe and the surrounding nature will impress you, anyway.
Do you want to join a guided tour along these famous landmarks? Have a look at the Free Walking Tour Calendar to find out if our tours are currently available.
Or would you like a printed map to navigate these old town attractions and get tips on the must-eat dishes in Salzburg and where to find them? In case you join one of our tours, you will receive a printed map, anyway. In case our tours are not available or you are not available to join, read this article on the Free Walking Tour city map to find out how to get the printed map for free.
Is this list of sights not enough guidance for you? Would you like an actual plan to help you organize your time in Salzburg?
Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that sightseeing in Salzburg is easy. easier than in most cities. the sights are very close, everything is within walking distance, there are no tourists falling and as long as you are in the area of the Mirabell garden, near the cathedral and around Getreidegasse you will find most of the sights by chance.
If you would like to have an exact plan, more useful tips or a list of places to eat, we got you covered with this in-depth article on what to do in one day in Salzburg or this article on the best restaurants and must eat Austrian dishes in Salzburg.
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